Pearson claims that its artificial intelligence machines will help reduce the achievement gap. Their solution: super-early intervention in learning "basic skills" (Luckin et. al. 42) to ensure "school readiness" and "advise (parents) about strategies for talking to their child, sharing songs, and enjoying books."
The first is not a good idea: skill-training does not lead to real competence, only better performance on skills tests: eg heavy phonics instruction only helps children pronounce words presented in isolation – it does not contribute to performance on tests of reading comprehension.
The second does not require expensive technology; see, for example, the Reach Out and Read program, which has produced excellent results by modeling read alouds for parents in waiting rooms during well-child visits, and providing the family with one free book each visit.
The Pearson scheme does not address the major cause of the achievement gap, poverty. It may even increase poverty by pushing expensive equipment that nobody needs, enriching Pearson, and resulting in less money for services that children of poverty really do need, e.g. food programs, health care (school nurses) and school libraries.
Luckin, R., Holmes, W., Griffiths, M. and Forcier, L. 2016. Intelligence Unleashed: An Argument for AI in Education. London: Pearson.
Skills-oriented programs: Garan, E. 2001. Beyond the smoke and mirrors: A critique of the National Reading Panel report on phonics. Phi Delta Kappan 82, no. 7 (March), 500-509. Krashen, S. 2009. Does intensive decoding instruction contribute to reading comprehension? Knowledge Quest 37 (4): 72-74.
Reach out and Read: Krashen, S. 2011. Reach Out and Read (Aloud): An Inexpensive, Simple Approach to Closing the Equity Gap in Literacy Language Magazine 10 (12): 17-19.
Services children of poverty need: Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential;
Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, and Westport, CONN: Libraries Unlimited (second edition).